Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Friday, December 2, 2011

To Circumcise or Not To Circumcise? That is the question.

But why is a far better question.  This post started out as a comment to an old post buried in Fiftyodd’s excellent blog:

Fiftyodd, January 14, 2011, To Circumcise or Not

It struck me, hey you haven’t had a blog entry for about a week, don’t bury this piece of brilliance in a year old archived post that no one is going to read, get it out here in the fresh daylight where it can be seen and thoroughly disgust the few readers that you have.

Sign a release for this procedure!  Are you crazy? 

Circumcision has had a long run of popularity in the US and no one really seems to know why.  Hmmmmm!  So why are 75%* of the male babies born in the US still subjected to non-religious circumcision?  Vague hygiene issues are often cited and well the baby's father is circumcised, as is the delivering OB-GYN, his grandfather, the president of the hospital, the minister, the mayor, and the mail man.  So why in the hell wouldn't you get your son circumcised?  And why do you ask?  It is the thing to do.  OK, but why?

(*75% is a WHO estimate in Wikipedia, other sites state lower figures.  32% is the lowest I found.)

I was born in 1949, and from 1955 to 1974, I got to see my share of peckers. Of course as young lads, pre-seventh grade, looking at each other's peters was just a matter of boyhood scientific curiosity.  From this somewhat scientific examination, I was amazed by several things.

1) How much all of our peckers looked alike, even the Jewish kids who had theirs chopped off by a rabbi in covenant with God, which had to be more important than us Gentiles that just had our chopped by a doctor because ahhh? well ahhh? Um? Well let’s see, um?  Well, we don't know, but at least he will fit in with the rest of the baby boom and be vaguely clean.

2) How much bigger everyone else's was than mine. Yeah mine looked the same, but something of a scaled down model.

Another thing I remember of being curious about was that most of us had this really cool brown ring on our peckers, but some didn’t.  Unfortunately, I have no recollection of the demographics of this ring.  I just remember that there were some kids that seemed to lack the ring.  This ring has been a cause for minor contemplation through out my life, but never enough that I ever researched it.  Well, here is a remarkable example of the serendipity afforded to one through blogging.  Today while researching circumcision, I found out why I have a brown ring.  This is amazing.  For 57 years I have wondered this off and on and today in search of erudition for your edification and enjoyment I solve one my life long mysteries, a minor mystery, but mysterious none the less.  Just to see how widely known this answer is I Googled “Why does my penis have a brown ring?”  Oh good God, spare me, 505,000 hits in 0.033 seconds,  the lion’s share on the first two pages are corny young men’s forums providing a lot of speculative ridiculous answers, and I call my writing bullshit.  There is some really profound stupidity out there.  I am pretty sure that due to the fact I have been sporting this particular racing stripe as long as I could remember that it was not from my girlfriends lipstick, masturbation, anal sex, a disease, or the result of sex toys.

You will note the curious lack of images of the main subject matter in this post, but fear not, Wikipedia leaves nothing to the imagination.  Here is the caption to the particular photo that answered this great mystery:

“Distinctive brown ring scar on adult penis resulting from neonatal circumcision using the Gomco clamp method."

Not one to deny anyone proof for themselves, here is the link:

Make your lad a Gomco lad!  The clamp of
choice for millions of circumcisions! 

So I shall consider myself from this day forward a Gomco lad, something of a designer label.  Perhaps I will look up the logo of the Gomco Corporation and have it tattooed on the dorsal side of pete in matching brown ink.  May as well have some decals ala NASCAR as well as a racing stripe.

Of course with puberty, a confusing enough time for the pubertant, also comes the joy of junior high school and the imposed humiliation (one of the reasons I fear reincarnation) of the mandatory shower after gym class. There has to be some unhealthy societal reason that we impose such rituals on our children just when they are going through the most awkward times of their lives.  Yes I know, they start to get body odor in puberty…but the conspiracy theorist in me still believes that society through an evil network of gym teachers is extracting a little suffering in the form of humiliation to celebrate our children’s metamorphosis into sexual beings.  Then the same for high school, but by then one is almost used to the idea.  Now lest you think poorly of me, let me qualify these gazes of puberty and young adulthood.  Gone is the sense of fascination and any scientific inquiry.  As such there are no longer drawn out examinations like we did in childhood.  Nope, these joyful jaunts into male uro-genital topology were replaced by rapid furtive glances by those of us, the 98 pound weaklings, who maintained small peckers and low positions on the pecking order.  The big guys of course were blessed by large frames with large muscles, and huge jalombos fitting a Bob Evans Kielbasa advertisement.  Curiously, the big guys didn’t bother with quick furtive glances.  They made an obvious effort to look and usually smirked and then swaggered off with their mighty jalombos swaying to and fro in an unconfined glory.

Ahhhh, the big pricked alpha males.  Of course we 98 pound weaklings were tempted to cover our modest goods with a cupped hand, but most of us were too savvy for that tactic.  One kid was stupid enough to do it, I don’t know if he lost his mind or what, but he paid for his lapse of judgment probably for the next two decades.  Every time one of the well hung brutes would see this kid, they would call out his name and then cup their hands over their crotches, always in front of a group of girls. The popular girls, of course, laughed and the ordinary girls (which I now regret that I didn’t fall in love with each and every one of them, because they were decent human beings) were horrified—not because some asshole grabbed his crotch, but rather that they were subjecting this poor kid to yet more humiliations.  Oh good God the humiliations one had to suffer in junior high school, I pray to God that there is no such thing as reincarnation.  Just let me go to hell, it has to be less demeaning.   BTW the peckers all still looked the same but with quite a variation in size and mine, of course, was on the skimpy end of the spectrum.  Anyhow these furtive glances ascertained two important facts.  1) the relative size of the goods, and 2) the presence of pubic hair.  Ahaa!   A saving grace, I was blessed by the early onset of pubic hair.  It spared me.  Yes some of these guys had me by 5 inches in height, 50 pounds of bulk, and it seemed 18 inches of pecker but most of them sported a bit of blond fuzz.  I was blessedly hirsute and thus spared some of these humiliations because even the big guys suffered a good bit of pubic hair angst until it started to sprout in earnest.  It was not anything that I strutted, but I didn’t hide it either, and I seemed to be oddly immune to the stares and smirks of the barbarians.  

I had a several years respite from meat gazing between high school and the military.  The small college I attended did not require any physical education credits and I gladly shied from the needless humiliation of any thing involving public nudity.

9 Apr 70  My draft physical. Oh yeah, a day forever emblazoned in my memory. Stand naked with one hundred other guys in formation. Piss in cup with 100 other naked guys. Bend over and spread your cheeks with 100 other naked guys.  Well at least everyone was scared shitless and nobody was strutting around swaying their peckers.   Another 4 years of public showers in the military.  Again the furtive quick glances in the sizeroo department.  Alas my superior reign in pubic hair had long vanished, although I had most everyone beat in the beard and.chest hair department.  It seemed that my body put all of its testosterone to use in hair growing and insane sexual desire.  Nothing left for muscles or pecker development.  I usually came out on the diminutive end of these quick estimations of penile magnitude.  Not hugely diminutive, puberty did work some miracles but none the less some thing far less than bull like.

Anyhow the long and short of my 19 years of unhappy meat gazing is that of all those hundreds of peckers that I had seen, only one was not circumcised! The land fills from the fifties have to be loaded with rotting tonsils and foreskins.  The one that I did see in the unaltered state was from my youth.  So it was part of the scientific inquiry era.  But this kid was 2 years older than me and was big enough that he wasn’t going to be the target of pecker jokes.  He and his unusual pecker were regarded with respect because he would slam the living shit out of you if you were dumb enough to say anything disrespectful.  He seemed to be quite proud of his unmodified peter, a true classic, and had no reservations about showing it off during our studies.  He also knew why he was different and got us all informed that we were the weirdos sporting the hacked up peckers.  He was natural man, and if you didn’t believe it, he would kick the shit out of you.

Anyhow in 19 years of observation, I saw one uncircumcised peter.  Reading Wikipedia, the rate of neonatal circumcision for the US varied from 70% to 85% during the years of my childhood.  So for the hundreds of peckers that I had seen, shouldn’t roughly ¼ of them been unmutilated?  Well the only thing I can think of is that Pittsburgh was very industrial town back in those days.  I imagine that most people went with the flow and didn’t question common wisdom.  Besides every male in the boy’s family probably had been circumcised so what the hell.  

In April of 1983, my daughter (according to the sonogram) somehow in the last few months of pregnancy managed to grow a pecker and my astounded wife and I were forced to make the decision whether or not to circumcise our daughter son. Of course, why wouldn't we?  Not that I brought up the fact, but in nineteen years of meat gazing, I had seen one uncut pecker. I didn't want the kid to be a freak! A maternity nurse was sent to discuss our options.  The only thing she said is that circumcision was no longer covered by medical insurance and it would cost us $485.  It was fore drawn conclusion that the tiny lad would be circumcised, she just wanted to make sure that we knew our wallet was about to be mutilated as well as our daug... I mean, son's penis. That was it, no other considerations.  An oh shit about the cost and not another ounce of thought was given to the poor lad.

I never thought much more about circumcision again until the late 90s.  Browsing about the Internet I ran into a circumcision awareness site and the awareness was high and mighty against circumcision.  I learned some interesting things about circumcision in the US.

  • For most part nobody knows why (other than religious reasons) that circumcision is performed in the US other than vague notions of hygiene.
  • Despite a popular belief encouraged to assuage our guilt, the procedure is extremely painful to infant boys.
  • It may have psychological impacts. Personally I can't tell you due to the fact that I have no awareness of not being circumcised.
  • The removal of the foreskin results in the loss of 15 square inches of highly innervated tissue on a adult penis which greatly contributes to the pleasure of sexual contact. Ahhhaaaa now we are getting a hint!
  • Coitus with an intact foreskin is far less traumatic for women because of the gliding action of the foreskin reduces vaginal abrasion.
  • Hygiene concerns can easily be countered by daily washing, and washing prior to sex.

So when you really come down to it nobody really knows why the hell we subject our infant sons to this barbaric mutilation.  Well he should look like his father.  Well gee let me think, was my father circumcised?  I have no idea.  My son is and I am the asshole that signed the paper giving permission. But yeah, I have to tell you, when we hang out together in the buff, we take a lot of pride in the fact that wow, we look just alike.  Why just last week, we were comparing scar patterns on our frenulums while having a beer.

Well truth be known, I haven't seen my son's pecker since he was maybe 5, and other than the fact that I hope the acorn fell far from the tree and he inherited some size from his mother, I really don't concern myself with my son's pecker or how it looks, and I doubt that he has much interest in mine.  My only concern about my son’s pecker, is a hope that he keeps it where it belongs and uses it with respect, love, and tenderness.  I do feel bad about robbing him those 15 square inches of happiness, but we don’t exactly sit around and revel in our similarity.  So I am not sure that I buy into this father / son appearance argument.

The article in Wikipedia debates whether the procedure is painful to infants.  Well gang, let’s do a little experiment.  Reach down in your pants.  Boys, grab a small piece of whatever remaining foreskin you have.  Girls, grab a hunk of inner labia.  OK, class, now set your fingers so the piece of tissue you just grabbed is caught between the nails on your index finger and thumb.  OK, now give a slight little pinch.  Not too hard.  Ouch! Sextant you bastard, that hurt.  No shit?  Well how do you think it feels for a newborn with nice fresh raw nerves getting hacked with a knife?  Oh well they give anesthetics.  Sometimes, but you better request it.  And think of this, how would you like your raw little sore pecker laying for hours in a pissy diaper?  This bullshit is nothing short of barbaric, sorry, I just can’t cotton to this practice.  

So what gives here, why is 75% of American parents lopping off hunks of their infant son's peckers without the son’s knowledge (thankfully) or their consent?
Specially formulated to
curb impure desires.

No body knows.  Bullshit!  A clue to the answer can be found in the cereal aisle in any US grocery store. Yes sir-re Bob, did you know that Tony The Tiger, Snap, Crackle and Pop all have been circumcised?   Why?  Because great great grand uncle John H. Kellogg thought that circumcision was GR-R-REAT.  Why is that? Well when boys reach puberty, they become flooded with testosterone and obsessed with sex, and fortunately they don’t get much action from the young ladies (well back in my day, anyhow).  Nature provided a wonderful harmless outlet to handle this explosive sexual need.  Well poor old Doc Kellogg being a good Victorian was convinced that America was going to be reduced to a nation of hairy palmed, idiots with terrible vision from the dangers of onanism.  Yes!  Masturbation was going to be the ruination of the American republic a mere century after its founding by men that obviously kept their hands off their privates.  The solution? Corn flakes and circumcision.  Not to mention a yogurt enema several times a day.  The corn flakes were formulated in John’s mind to reduce excessive libidinous urges.  In fact there was a bit of a cereal war between the two Kellogg brothers over the addition of sugar to the cereal.  Old Tony may be a bit hornier than John would like.

Dr. John H. Kellogg

In any event Dr John H. Kellogg believed that circumcision would eliminate masturbation by not only reducing the pleasure of the activity, but making it somewhat painful.  One of John’s favorite treatments was the immediate circumcision of a boy caught red handed.  John would cure the boy with his scalpel in a rage.  Sort of puckers my ass thinking about it.  Not only is this kid’s poor peter getting hacked without anesthetic, but it is being done by a religious sadist caught up in a holier than thou rage.  I rather imagine than more than one miscreant lost more than his foreskin to John’s rages.  John wrote in his book Plain Facts for Old and Young,

"A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed."

Well most of my readers are women and I can hear you ladies thinking with a sigh of relief, “wow, if I was alive back then, I would be thanking God that I was a girl.  Well let me assure you, John understood the true nature of the female.  As my grandmother would say, sinful hussies, pure and simple.  So ladies don’t get cocky, John had a remedy for you girls as well:

“In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid [phenol] to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.”

Indeed, and I rather imagine that it did a number on normal excitement as well.  But wait, there is more, according to Wikipedia, John “also recommended, to prevent children from this "solitary vice", bandaging or tying their hands, covering their genitals with patented cages, sewing the foreskin shut and electrical shock."

You know I don’t believe in hell, but for John Kellogg, I may make an exception.  Well I can personally attest to the fact that poor John was wrong.  It seems that circumcised boys may actually masturbate more often than uncircumcised boys and that circumcised men engage in far more variable sexual activity.  So the joke’s on you John!   Perhaps, but I am one of the millions missing 15 square inches off the end my pecker and to be honest I am not happy about it.  Yes sex is still pleasurable, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that with 15 square inches of highly innervated tissue it has to be a hell of lot more pleasurable.  And who knows maybe my wife and millions of other wives would really like the gliding action.  Maybe there would be far less female sexual dysfunction if the multitude American men were not circumcised.  So no, the joke is on us, millions of us, men who were mutilated immediately after birth without our consent by a society that didn’t even know why they were doing it, all because of the corny ideas of a wacko religious bigot and his Victorian cronies.  The joke is on millions of couples who don’t enjoy sex to its fullest extent.  How many women of our parent's generation had never experienced an orgasm because of needless circumcision?  Today we know that there are other ways to fly our women off to Oz, but back then it straight laced missionary position and when hubby was done, the loving was done, and if the Mrs was still on her way down the yellow brick road, well tough shit.  I just wonder how many marriages suffered from John’s delusions of solitary vice.  

So today we are faced with yet more controversy regarding circumcision.  It seems that circumcision reduces the chances of a man getting infected with HIV.  There is also a connection between circumcision and HPV related diseases such as cervical cancer and genital warts.  And there seems to be a reduction in penile cancers in circumcised men.  Well to the HIV issue, I would say this, first I don’t believe the data, I think it was poorly collected and somebody jumped the gun, but let’s assume that it is absolutely true.  So what?  Any one who believes that they can avoid HIV with circumcision in lieu of condoms is more deluded than John Harvey Kellogg.  So rather than getting your pecker hacked up, why not use condoms, or better yet practice absolute monogamy with a person you love?  Well there is my simple minded idealism coming through again.  Love! Yeah right!  That takes some maturity not just a hard on.  OK forget love, although I think it’s the best solution.  If you must sleep around, use condoms.  Yeah that’s right every time.  Avoid getting drunk or high so you will remember to use the condoms.  But you know what, you can get drunk with a monogamous loving spouse.  The worst that can happen is you may conceive a child, which may or may not be a joyous occasion, but it is a hell of lot better than a death sentence from HIV.  So yeah I still say love is the solution.  On the other health issues, 1) cleanliness, 2) condoms  3) monogamous love.  With solutions 1 and 3 you can forget about # 2 unless birth control is an issue.  Problem solved, not to mention there is a vaccine for HPV.  OK so I have just managed to throw out all of the medical reasons for circumcision right out the window, at least to my satisfaction.

So parents, if you want my opinion (and you know what they say about opinions, like anuses, everyone has one and it often stinks) for any question of non-religious circumcision…absolutely not.  It is a violation of your child’s human rights.  Oh but he won’t look like daddy.  Tough shit, find a new family tradition instead of pecker comparisons during the holidays.  I don’t follow this father / son peckers alike forever.  Break the tradition.  He won’t look like daddy, and he won’t feel like daddy—half numb.  So start a new tradition, you, my son, will have a full pecker’s worth of nerves—enjoy!  Your future daughter in law may come and thank you,  “Oh Junior is such a master in bed, thank you ever so much for not mutilating his penis.  We would like to stay for dinner, but to be honest I have the hots for Junior right now, so if you don’t mind…cheerio!”  Hmmm! Maybe an argument for circumcision.

Well I am not fool enough to get into the slippery slope of religious circumcision.  I have no problem with telling you what I think of a God that expects you to hack off some of your son’s penis as a demonstration of faith.  But I do have a lot of trouble with telling you that you do not have the right to do it.  Hmmmm!  Its real easy for me to say none of my affair, Sextant keep your nose out of other people’s religions.  But wait a second, for some reason I can object to female genital cutting as it is practiced in Africa for often religious reasons, or aesthetic vaginal surgery as it is practiced in Los Angeles for fashion and PROFIT.  So what do I have against protesting religious male circumcision?  The fact is I have donated money to organizations that fight FGC in Africa, so is it not a bit sexist that I take a hands off attitude to male genital mutilation?  Am I not operating under a double standard?  Yes I am, and to be honest I am not proud of it.

When forced with a moral quandary, I often seek a lilly livered approach that solves nothing but puts me into a better light—you know pretty much like every frigging politician in America today.  So when the real me wants an immediate world wide ban on all genital mutilation effective yesterday, the conniving part me looks for a compromise solution.  So how about this?  Ban all circumcisions and genital mutilation on minors.  Illegal, can’t be done.  When the boy is 18 and now defined as a man (although at 62 I am not man enough to undergo a religious circumcision), he and he alone will decide if he wants to honor the demands of a religion.  Well the lawyer in me says “Brilliant Sextant.  You should be on the Supreme Court!”  However the boy in me, that poor kid that had to go through seventh grade showers, had to bend over and spread his cheeks at a very boyful age of 21, that had to go through the draft and God knows how many humiliations to grow up, that boy says to me “Hey asshole, how would like to be facing a circumcision when you are 18 because your family demands it?”  Oh well they wouldn’t do that!  Oh yeah?  A fellow blogger tells of her father, a former boxer, beating the shit out of her to the point that she was out of school for two weeks because she snuck out on a date with a boy of a different religion.  Parents can be pretty goddamned loony when it comes to their religion and their children.  So another part of me says “Sextant shut the f--- up and mind your own business.”

EDIT 8-28-13:  Here is an excellent video explaining the innervation and function of the foreskin:

YouTube, Anatomy of the Penis: Penile and Foreskin Neurology, Ken McGrath


Kellog Images:

EDIT 12-3-2011:  I found some additional links for organizations battling and promotion circumcision.

Con: For those who, like me, are against circumcision:

These two organizations are related and firmly are firmly anti-circumcision, perhaps to a degree that exceeds my negative view.  I do love the Montaigne quote.

Concerned baby image:


Circumcision logo 

This organization in the UK is pro-circumcision.  It is interesting that regarding sexual function these organizations both claim increased function for what ever their stance is.  Amazing!  

Here is an article by a father who battles his conscious on the issue:

While I am quick to condemn infant circumcision, I do believe that it is complex issue that requires a lot of thought and not just immediate reactions. My feelings on the matter are far more muddled than these websites would have you believe.  I do regret the fact that I allowed the procedure be done on my son, and my immediate thought is that I wished it hadn't been done on me.  I am not sure how gym class would go for and uncircumcised male back when I was growing up.  My uncircumcised buddy was big enough to make anyone stupid enough to comment sorry for the fact.  But what about us 98 pound weaklings?  Peer pressure in the world of adolescence is an extremely powerful and destructive force.  For those with religious convictions, again the coward in me, if I were in that situation, would say, please don't spare me at birth only to demand it when I am 18...just go ahead and get the deed done with it on your own conscious.  Don't give your son something to dread in his adolescence.

EDIT 3-25-2012:  I ran into another informative albeit anti-circumcision web site.

Male Circumcision in the USA: A Human Rights Primer  

This site has a great deal of information on the psychological effects of circumcision on adult males. Here is a direct quote:

The long term psychological impact of birth-related trauma is also relevant to the issue of MGM. Recent studies have found striking connections between birth trauma and adult post traumatic stress and suicide,  and adult victims of infant MGM often exhibit a spectrum of symptoms including:
  • a sense of personal powerlessness
  • lack of trust in others and life
  • a sense of vulnerability to violent attack by others
  • irrational rage reactions
  • addictions and dependencies
  • difficulties in establishing intimate relationships
  • decreased ability to communicate
  • emotional numbing
  • reluctance to be in relationships with women
  • anger and violence toward women 
Neurologically speaking, the life-long sexual sensory deprivation which results from circumcision has a profound effect on the neural organization of the brain, similar to that found in any amputee: corresponding neurons associated with states of sexual and emotional ecstasy die, and adjacent neural regions grow chaotically into the dead zone.  Furthermore, childhood victims of traumatic abuse tend to have a variety of brain abnormalities, reflecting a generalized rewiring of the brain to adapt to a hostile environment.  The psychological impact of such brain damage is likely to be far reaching.
I have never considered myself to have been psychologically harmed by being circumcised.  Yet when I look at the list above, I can certainly relate to some of the conditions, although not all.  However, even the conditions that I do not believe apply to me, for instance reluctance to be in a relationship with women, or anger and violence toward women, is there still a negative effect, that while not expressing it self in a full manifestation, is still exerting some influence?

I have no way of knowing what sort of person I would be had I not been circumcised.  I suffered immensely with my sexuality in my teens.  I had an extreme desire to be in a loving and sexual relationship with a girl.  Yes, believe it or not just one girl, I was a monogamist even then.  I was guilt ridden over sexuality, which I attributed to religion at the time, but now wonder if there was not some element of guilt and a fear caused by circumcision.  I was far too shy to establish even a chaste dating relationship until my very late teens, which also could have been related to infant circumcision.

So adult circumcised men, when reading about the ills of circumcision, get a double whammy, not only have we been denied a sizable portion of our sexual response, but we also have to face the prospect that we may be significantly damaged psychologically.  It really pisses me off...which could be evidence of the damage...irrational rage reactions.  But I have to ask how irrational is that rage?

EDIT: 9-11-2012  The American Academy of Pediatrics have revised their policy regarding circumcision.  Due to some evidence that circumcision reduces the transmission of HIV and some other medical considerations the Academy now states the following:

Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. In the case of circumcision, in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child. To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss this decision. It is legitimate for parents to take into account cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions, in addition to the medical factors, when making this decision. Analgesia is safe and effective in reducing the procedural pain associated with circumcision; therefore, if a decision for circumcision is made, procedural analgesia should be provided. If circumcision is performed in the newborn period, it should only be done on infants who are stable and healthy.
 Emphasis mine. So what exactly is the Academy saying here? Circumcision is not like brushing your teeth with fluoride, there is nothing routine about circumcision. Your not going to do it on even days and skip the odd. I would have to conclude, that yes, there is some minor medical benefit to circumcision that balance the risk invoked. But evidence of those benefits are not strong enough for Academy to recommend circumcision. "Routine" only complicates the issue. You can't perform circumcision on an individual only some of the time.

On the issue of HIV transmission the academy had this to say:

There does appear to be a plausible biologic explanation for this association in that the mucous surface of the uncircumcised penis allows for viral attachment to lymphoid cells at or near the surface of the mucous membrane, as well as an increased likelihood of minor abrasions resulting in increased HIV access to target tissues. However, behavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status. 
Again emphasis mine--which supports my statement above regarding condoms.  If you think that circumcision is going to prevent you from getting HIV, you are well on your way to self destruction.

You can read the full text of the AAP revised policy statement here:

You can read the Circumcision Resource Center's Response to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Circumcision Policy Statement  here:

You can read Jesse Bering's tiff with Andrew Sullivan, here:

I wrote two comments to the above article, #16 and #19.

EDIT 9-19-12:  For an excellent blog on circumcision and other moral issues see Lilli Cannon's  Moralagous:

In a reply to one of my comments on her blog, Ms. Cannon made an excellent point.  One should refrain from using the term mutilated.  It is an emotional flash point that inspires anger and impedes understanding.   I am guilty of using the term and exactly for the reason that yes, I consider myself mutilated and yes I am angry about it.  As such I reserve the right to describe myself in that fashion.  However in the spirit of reasonable debate will avoid the term in the future.  

EDIT 9-23-12.  What an idiot I am.  The quotes from the AAP policy is the old policy.  The new policy is here:


"Although health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns, the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns. It is important that clinicians routinely inform parents of the health benefits and risks of male newborn circumcision in an unbiased and accurate manner."

The second paragraph quoted above did not appear in the revised statement.  The new policy statement is very brief compared to the older statement.  It is much more in favor of circumcision, but still stops short of a wholesale recommendation for all newborns.   

EDIT 7-26-13:  There is a very well written and poignant account of a mother's struggle with the decision for circumcising her sons at Lilly Cannon's Moralogus: 


  1. Donna,
    Kind of like thoughts in a swamp. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. No, not like thoughts in a swamp, Sextant. When I was a newspaper reporter, I worked on a story about circumcision, but had trouble getting local pediatricians to comment on the record. It's a sensitive subject...also an important one for people to consider.

  3. Well I thought the thoughts in the swamp to be quite enlightened actually. But tell me why were the pediatricians reluctant to go on record? Did the story go to print?

  4. It was maybe 15 years ago, and all the locally reported stories for the paper I worked for had to have a local angle. So, no, it never got done. In our neck of the woods, you didn't often see the "p" word in the paper. Parents didn't want to talk, on the record, about making the decision, and local doctors evidently saw no benefit, to themselves, in commenting.

    1. I conjecture that most doctors in our lifetime privately se no point in the procedure. I have read many times of the obgyn saying, when a Mom says she doesn't want it done, that he did not have his own boys done. They offer the service anyway, because many parents believe that a boy and young man lacking a bald penis will have an Epic Fail social life. At any rate, it is well remunerated, the hospital gets a cut of the fee. Money is a superb anesthetic for the conscience.

  5. Well I can see the parents balking, but the doctors? They get queasy over the P word! Well like you say they probably saw no benefit and a vast opportunity to take a haranguing from weirdos like me! Donna thanks again for commenting, you always add some great insight.

  6. Brown knows. I remember that ad campaign and it never made sense to me. But it does sound right here. As much as anything does. One of my instructors in nursing school had a theory. She thought that maybe the very first venereal diseases had come to be in biblical times due to poor hygiene, no doubt. Circumcision was a solution. I had my boys circumsized. Now that I think about it, I am not sure why, other than the pediatrician handed me the consent forms to sign. I was only 17 when my first child was born and back then doctors were gods, not be argued with.

  7. I have no idea why blogger is not recognizing me. Kathy's Kampground Kapers ........ I don't do anonymous comments.

  8. Kathy
    Blogger has been messed up for about a month now. I think they added servers and haven't got them to synchronize or something. Every time I access it, it behave differently. I knew who you were from Brown Knows.

    I read someplace that circumcision was popular with desert tribes because the intense heat caused problems. I don't know that I buy that, but it sounds a plausible as anything else.

    I know exactly what you mean, they hand you the forms and and you sign and it gets done. But why? Well its what we do. Like I said in the post, the only thing they emphasized to us was that we would have to pay for it. But there was no question that it was going to be done. We could have stopped it of course, but it never occurred to us. I wonder now if we had refused how much of a battle we would have had on our hands?

    There seems to be a lot faith in circumcision helping to prevent HIV transmission. This to me is very dangerous thinking, and I am not sure what it is based on other than some very poorly conducted studies done in Africa. I would not bet my life on circumcision doing anything other than hurting like hell when it is performed.

    Kathy thanks for commenting.

  9. Sextant! You are so thorough and so funny! Another brilliant post. NB - I've come across a lot of peckers in my life, one way or another - I would say I've seen about half and half. But then I grew up in the UK. No men in my immediate family are circumcised.

  10. fiftyodd

    Half and half. Interesting observation! Not on one, I hope! Thanks for stopping by and for the kind comment.

  11. I'm going to respond before I read everyone's comments because sometimes when I read the comments I get intimidated that maybe I didn't quite comprehend the way someone else did or someones comment will make me change my mind about what I thought about the post subject.

    I only have one son. He's missing those 15 square inches. I'm sorry son! I didn't know.

    I remember as if it had happened just yesterday the pediatician coming to me right after my sons birth and asking me about circumcision. Not prior to the birth when I could have researched and thought about it, but right after the birth while I was still in major pain and half out of it because it was a c-section and I had been put under.

    The pediatician gave me all the reasons that you listed above Sextant. The fact that circumsized boys have a lesser chance of cancer, they're cleaner, it's healthier..blah, blah, blah. I was young, dumb, inexperienced. I was used to obeying authority and I wanted only the BEST for my baby boy. They didn't give me any reasons NOT to do it. Maybe that's why so many boys are circumcised?

    As I understand it, not too many Hispanic males are circumcised. I know my dad isn't, and neither are my two brothers and I would assume my nephew aren't either. I married a Caucasian man who was circumcised so my son may be the only male in our family that is. Again...I'm sorry son.

    So anyway, that is why I made the decision to circumcize him. So now I'm going to go read comments and see what everyone else thought and said. Interesting post Sextant.

  12. *sigh* Lunch hour is over. I'll have to come back and read comments. I wish I were gainfully unemployed like you Sextant! :-D

  13. Well Alicia, you certainly didn't do anything that wasn't done millions of times before your son come along. Plus think about it, when your son was born, where the hell would you have gotten information on circumcision? There was no internet then. You would have found nothing but beneficial information from the medical world, but not so beneficial that your health insurance would cover the procedure. You went with the popular decision at the time and why wouldn't you, especially if his father was circumcised.

    Asking you immediately after giving birth is another crock of shit. There was no need for that to be decided that soon. It all most makes you wonder if they don't do that on purpose, get 'em while their down.

    The problem now is that I believe the practice will be perpetuated with the false premise that it protects one from HIV. That makes about as much sense as sewing a baby's eyes half way shut to protect their corneas from excessive UV.

    Alicia, thanks for commenting.

  14. What a post! You are creative and thorough with this subject...

  15. Kim,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I suppose this post probably does qualify as a bit unusual.

  16. "That makes about as much sense as sewing a baby's eyes half way shut to protect their corneas from excessive UV." You do have a way with

    Yes, your right. There would have been no where to research this. I know my dad was livid with me that we had my son circumsized. But I didn't know.

    And you are right, they shouldn't have come to me right after giving birth. I was in no frame of mind to deal with that! But things probably haven't changed much and they probably still force women to make decisions when all they want to do is sleep.

  17. Hmm... interesting post. I must say that I have never, ever thought about this. Possibly because I have 3 daughters so the subject never came up. But can I share my "2 cents" anyway?
    Having lived most of my adult life in Europe, and with my rather limited experience, I`m inclined to believe that the majority of men in Europe are not circumcised. (except for religious reasons)It is not a subject that is brought up by the obstetricians or hospitals, it`s really a personal choice. I think in the UK it may be different though (anglosaxon culture).
    You sure do have a way with words... yes I`m smiling!

  18. Alicia

    Interesting that your father was angry with you. In my various readings on circumcision, the south west US has the lowest rate of circumcision, and the north east the highest. So it is not a uniformly conducted practice. Who thinks of this stuff, until a nurse comes at you with a form? I wonder how many of these things have been done in the US with no form of consent from anyone?

    1. My brother was done in the 1950s without my mother's consent. In those days, a doctor's actions and judgement calls were not to be questioned. Insurance always picked up the tab. Before 1978, there was NOTHING in print defending intact.

      In 1973, an orthodox Jewish baby was routinely circumcised by mistake. His parents were livid, because a medical circumcision does not satisfy the Jewish religious requirement, which requires that it be done in a very specific manner and accompanied by chanting and praying. The miffed parents sued and won. And thus prior parental consent entered the maternity ward. The two main reason why the rate has declined from 90%+ in the 1970s to 55% now is that parents are often out of pocket, and are told that the procedure is not required.

  19. Marlene,

    If you had sons, instead of daughters, I doubt the subject would have come up then either. Again from my readings, non-religious circumcision is rare in Europe. I think it would be rare in the US if it were not for Dr. Kellogg and his Victorian cronies. Marlene, thanks for stopping by and commenting, and again for smiling...that is a wonderful compliment.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Very interesting.. who knew there was so much to say on this topic?? But I finally got an answer to my question of what goes on in the boys' locker room. I could not imagine putting my baby son through that agony in 1986, so we didn't.

  22. That should say "WE" could not imagine... my hubby and I agreed on this question.

  23. Carol,

    Well I am not sure that I have divulged all the secrets of what goes on in the boys locker room. I was not one to hang around any longer than necessary!

    Good for you and your husband on your decision not to traumatize your son. I wished I hadn't but the notion was so ingrained that it wasn't even a consideration. I distinctly remember of being put out by the fact that it wasn't covered by our health insurance, but the next logical step, why is not covered, never entered my mind. There was no grand debate, or minor debate, just suck it up that we were going to have to pay for it. "The cheap bastards won't cover circumcision any longer." It was purely economic which fell in line with the failure of the steel industry in Pittsburgh in the late 70s and early 80s. I look back on it and marvel, somewhat in shame, on how easily I kowtowed to a societal expectation that had so little medical reasoning behind it. Quite actually is was almost fashion, and it strikes me as being profoundly weird now. So again three cheers to you and your husband.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    1. Of course the bald penis was a fashion statement! I say that the foreskin is a sleeve, and how long a sleeve should be is a fashion issue.

      Don't be too hard on yourself. When your boy was born, you had seen all of one uncut johnson in your entire life. Anything in print critiquing RIC was obscure. Naked males were not your taste in porn -- because you are straight. You and I grew up hearing a lot of boyish lewd talk. But the tip of the penis was very seldom the subject of that talk. Today, Google will take you in 15 seconds to posts and comments that are hymns of praise to the sexual glories of the male foreskin.

      Back then, things were very different. In its first 20 years, Playgirl showed all of 6 intact models. Hetero foreskin porn did not begin until around 2010. Trimming the foreskin was then considered an essential (but unspoken) part of good middle class grooming. If ya don't do it, he'll never get a blow job, ya know...

      The amazing thing is my mother, who told my father in 1949 that if he did not STFU about getting cut, she would divorce him.

  24. Hello, Sextant - too hot here to blog, so am reading yours.

  25. Fifty odd,

    That's not our problem here. It is -6 C out with a 6 meter/second wind and snowing--the likes of which you have probably not experienced since leaving merry old England. We have had a mild winter this year and hardly any snow, so I can't complain. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  26. Fifty odd,

    Wow, I wouldn't want to be a weatherman in South Africa! That is some serious jail time and cash!

    What is up with that?

  27. I didn't circumcise my son. Nor did a Dr, ha ha.
    Basically inflicting it on him was OUT. As was any of my kids crying for a nanosecond. And, yes, I did get told that the chances were increased for his one day sex partner to contract I believe cervical cancer without the circumcision but at that time I was pretty sure I wasn't caring because what woman that just had a baby wants to visualize some hussy with her baby.

    Now I don't know if that's even factual.

    I hope he doesn't hate me over it.

    I'm pretty darn sure we aren't likely to have a discussion....

    1. Sarah,

      Good for you and better for your son! I wish I had had the like presence of mind. I see no reason why your son would hate you for that decision. Although as you say, it probably won't come up as topic of discussion at the dinner table.

      I believe there is some element of higher risk of cervical cancer but I believe that it is driven by promiscuous behavior without using a condom. I think in monogamous relationships there is a far less chance and with the new vaccines, even a lesser chance. Cleanliness before sex however is requirement.

      Thanks for commenting.

    2. The midwestern world I come from was one that avoided all talk about any aspect of the genitalia. My mother was unable to say anything to me until I was 19. She did not really open up until after my father was dead. My father went to his grave keeping his own counsel. And I was much too prudish to ask anybody anything. I was unable to think and talk fortrightly about the male equipment until I read Betty Dodson's Sex For One in 1988. Several of my male friends, when they discovered my foreskin friendly opinions, either dropped me or threatened to cut me off if I said anything in their presence. In the USA, the male foreskin is more taboo than any part of the vulva (whose taboo nature is in free fall, thanks to Tumblr and pubic shaving).

  28. Perhaps I'll just buy him a nice towel set and vaguely suggest he read up on hygiene.

    No, I'm not kidding though-I suspect he's really far better off.
    It was hard to convince my pediatrician-she thought we were cave people. be it. I was appalled by the thought of hurting that pretty baby.

    1. Your pediatrician thought poorly of you? Why? Why would she think that circumcision was a positive thing? I suspect she has no more idea than the rest of us. High fashion in peckers with some very vague slight reductions in risk.

      I agree with you, your son is far better off, especially if there is anything to the claims of trauma induced psychological problems, which I give some plausibility--but also think would be difficult to prove.

    2. Well, I am Jewish and had 3 sons. I'm truly Jewish--but I objected strongly to their being circumcised. My parents forced me into having a "bris" for each boy--but I would not go near the room where it was done.

      What I love about Judaism is that most rituals are for the purpose of remembering your moral duties to all mankind, to be charitable, to work for people, but circumcision doesn't have that effect. I don't think my sons were harmed by by being circumcised & they all have active sex lives. But, still, there is no reason for circumcision. There are reasons for keeping kosher and celebrating Passover. and they all have to do with ones moral duties.

    3. Elaine,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I wrote this a while ago and in my kickings about various anti-circ sites, I have somewhat returned to my wiser statement of keeping my nose out of other people's religions. There is enough low lying fruit in the form of routine infant circumcision and the rights of the child to genital integrity that I really need not get into that fight.

      That fight is a battle that must be fought within Judaism. I would like you to know that you are not alone in your thoughts on circumcision and Judaism. I have read that there are many young Jewish women who are rejecting circumcision and refusing to accept that they or their intact sons are any less Jewish or devout than pro-circ Jewish women. This is where the battle will be fought I believe in the future. You were a part of the vanguard. Perhaps you did not resist, but that was a different time. Parents are a powerful voice.

      I am vaguely Christian, that is to say that I believe in God and I really like Christmas trees. I believe that God does speak to us through our conscious and I belief that what you felt about your own sons' circumcisions was God speaking to you. So I believe your feelings were and are accurate. It sounds as though you have given this much thought over the years. So I would ask of you only this, do not become your parents. You can be a voice of reason within your family and your friends. An intelligent devout Jewish woman decrying circumcision is a very powerful voice. There is a movement within Judaism to do away with circumcision but still keep the bris. Bless the infant's penis and wish it well and fruitful rather than cutting it. I think God is delighted.

      I agree most likely your son's were not harmed. I was not in general sense, although I do suffer from pre-mature ejaculation and there is some thought that PE can be caused by circumcision. Certainly history would indicate that circumcision has little effect on fertility. But there is a growing awareness that circumcision may affect the quality (segue to Pirsig, & your other comment) of coitus for both partners and there is some thought that circumcision may lead to late life sexuality problems.

      Again thank you for visiting and providing a very thoughtful comment.

  29. The following have applied to me at some time in my life:

    A sense of personal powerlessness
    Lack of trust in others and life
    A sense of vulnerability to violent attack by others
    Irrational rage reactions
    Addictions and dependencies
    Difficulties in establishing intimate relationships
    Decreased ability to communicate
    Emotional numbing
    Reluctance to be in relationships with women
    Anger and violence toward women

    With this difference: I am intact.
    The great dictators of the last century, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, were almost surely intact.
    There is no evidence that Jewish men are more callous and brutal than their European gentile neighbours.

    On psychological damage resulting from childhood violence and other trauma, read Alice Miller, a secular Jew who explicitly critiqued Jewish circumcision. She has a Wikipedia entry.
    Alice Miller, a Jew reared in Poland and later active in Switzerland, became the authority on the psychological harm of child abuse. Her book Banished Knowledge contains the following telling passage:

    “The common practice of circumcision shows how in many cultures the cruel mutilation of children's sexual organs is taken for granted. This practice is demanded by religious institutions and is not prevented by any legislation… With male circumcision the ‘reasons’ vary from culture to culture, but common to all is the fictitious claim that circumcision is performed in the interests of the child. That this procedure constitutes a cruelty that will later encourage the adult to indulge in similar, also denied, cruelties and will invest his deeds with the legitimacy of a clear conscience is constantly overlooked and ignored…

    “What eventually happens to the person who was mutilated as a child? When a small child is tortured by ignorant adults, won't he have to take his revenge later in life? He is bound to avenge himself unless his subsequent life allows the old wounds to heal in love, which is seldom the case. As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children, maintaining that their behaviour does no harm because their own loving parents did the same. Besides, in the case of circumcision it is a religious demand, and to many people it is still unthinkable that religion could demand cruelty.

    “…it has already been proven that all destructive behaviour has its roots in the repressed traumas of childhood. As soon as legislators become serious about the rights of the child to protection and respect, as proclaimed by UNESCO, it will have to be acknowledged that ritual circumcisions:

    1. Offer no advantage and are a mutilation;
    2. Prevent the relaxation experience and lead to over-stimulation with potentially destructive and self-destructive effects;
    3. Inflict a trauma on the child leading to an injury of his whole being, with the consequences of these injuries affecting not only the individual and his descendants but other human beings as well.“ (Miller, Alice, 1990. Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries. Doubleday: 135-41ff)

    Miller then quotes Desmond Morris as follows: “As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children, maintaining that their behaviour does no harm because their own loving parents did the same.”

  30. "...the rate of neonatal circumcision for the US varied from 70% to 85% during the years of my childhood. So for the hundreds of peckers that I had seen, shouldn’t roughly 1/4 of them been unmutilated?"

    Your perplexity assumes that there are no conditioning variables, so that the probability of being intact is about the same everywhere in the USA. But it isn't the same. The USA is an amalgam of communities, some with very high circ rates, others with much lower rates. The overall circ rate is determined by the relative importance of circumcising communities, and the recent shifts of come communities from cut to intact. More likely to be intact are the foreign born and their sons, Latinos, those born at home with the help of midwives, those who hail from rural areas, American Indians born on reservations, Italian Americans in Boston and New York, Polish Americans in Chicago.

    West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the states bordering the Great Lakes have the highest circumcision rates in the USA, with the singular exception of Illinois. I am told that this result is due to an unusually low circ rate in Greater Chicago.

    My guess is that the circumcision rate among white midwestern baby boomers was probably at least 98%. During my entire youth, I saw all of 5-6 intact johnsons in locker rooms and while taking a leak. This very high rate was achieved because obgyns in that day cut babies without asking the parents. They did so for venal reasons, as a way of milking health insurers. This practice was not a considered decision. America chopped foreskins with a vengeance, but was much too prudish to discuss it in any way. I am convinced that a fair fraction of the kids I grew up with graduated from high school not knowing that they the genitals of the boys had undergone minor surgery shortly after birth. About once a decade my mother would say something sarcastic suggesting that she made the same guess.

    1. Roger,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and providing some very insightful comments. Good point about Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, being uncut does not necessarily confer a humanitarian ideal.

  31. "The land fills from the fifties have to be loaded with rotting tonsils and foreskins."

    That's got to be one of the most disturbing things I've ever read! Even worse, we can now add to that mix several hundred tons of fat from liposuction.

    As for circumcision, thank you for taking the time to write about a touchy subject. Much like gun control and abortion, we'll never have a solution that suits everyone. What's right for some will not, now or ever, be acceptable for others. You'd think the sensible thing to do would be to leave it up to each individual male. You might try reading Fire in the Belly, by Sam Keen. He had some rather profound thoughts on the negative impact created on infant males, being held down by 'giants' (adults) and having the must sensitive part of his body sliced by a scalpel.

    1. "having the must sensitive part..."

      Oops! That should be most, not must.

    2. Dwight, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Indeed, one would think that the sensible thing to do would be to leave it up to the individual when he is an adult...not to mention the human rights violation of RIC. Odd thing about that, for all the purported advantages, there seems to be few adult males who choose to have the procedure performed. Thanks for the tip on Sam Keen.